Critics’ Picks

View of “My Crippled Friend,” 2013.

View of “My Crippled Friend,” 2013.


“My Crippled Friend”

Canzani Center Gallery
Columbus College of Art & Design, 60 Cleveland Avenue
October 11, 2013–January 1, 2014

Rosalind Krauss once quoted Barnett Newman defining sculpture as “what you bump into when you back up to see a painting,” thereby describing its negative condition under modernism: One knows sculpture by what it is not—not architecture, not landscape, and, importantly, not painting. “My Crippled Friend,” curated by Michael Goodson and Patrick O’Rorke, is an expansive, rowdy exhibition of more than one hundred recent paintings determined to hold onto modernism’s investment in color, pigment, and nonobjective abstraction while also escaping its “negative condition.” These works insist on becoming something clearly definable and namable: things—painted things—that one might bump into or trip over while trying to understand them as paintings.

Cordy Ryman’s candy-colored Third Ghost Wave, 2010, unfurls an array of painted wooden beams between a swath of wall and floor in a graceful, undulating arc. The slats are spaced just far enough apart to create the illusion of a surface while also giving the viewer a broken glimpse of the empty volume beneath. At every angle a new image appears, rising in the sculptural swell. Matt Rich’s painted paper and tape collage Spiral, 2010, hovers loosely, weightlessly above the wall. Its thin shadow and cutout, empty center should emphasize its ephemerality; instead its centripetal structure bores an illusory hole through the wall that it seems to barely touch. Sarah Cain’s Santa Barbara 2, 2011, claims its territory on the wall as a traditional painting would, but a series of cut flaps in the painted canvas part to uncover an equally developed interior. The verso side, a grid of interior stretchers, and the backing surface are also equally articulated. Cain’s work holds open the fantasy that every picture plane might be plumbed to reveal its hidden, interior depth when taken as an object.